***1/2 (out of 5)
April 22, 2005
Nicole Kidman as SILVIA BROOME
Sean Penn as TOBIN KELLER
Catherine Keener as DOT WOODS
Jesper Christensen as NILS LUD
Yvan Attal as PHILIPPE
Earl Cameron as ZUWANIE
George Harris as KUMAN-KUMAN
Directed by: Sydney Pollack
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
It’s not uncommon to hear political thrillers described as “smart” simply because they have a modicum of depth to them. When it comes to “The Interpreter,” it is rather smart, and sometimes a little too smart for its own good. But it does deliver on suspense and thrills.
Nicole Kidman plays Silvia Broome, a linguist for the U.N. One night during a routine evacuation, she overhears a conversation about a plot to assassinate the dictator of a civil war-torn African nation. When she goes to the authorities with this information, they jump on the case, but they also jump on her. After all, she’s one of the few people in the U.S. who understood the language of the unseen conspirators.
Sean Penn stars as the agent in charge of the case. His partner is played by Catherine Keener, whose role is pretty much a throw-away. And that’s a shame, because she’s much better than Sean Penn in my book.
Penn does his best Al Pacino impression as he portrays his character, who is suffering from grief after his wife was killed only weeks before. Because he is struggling with his own grief, he is ultimately cold to Silvia. She is equally as cold to him because she is in grief as well, considering she suspects her brother – an activist in Africa – is wrapped up in this conspiracy.
The movie would have been much better with a different actor in this role, but Penn will do for what it’s worth. And since Nicole Kidman is really the star, and its nice to see her get a decent role for a change.
Sydney Pollack directs “The Interpreter,” and he goes through all the proper paces as far as political thrillers go. In fact, he has some incredibly tense scenes, including a brilliant cat-and-mouse chase in the middle of the film. This was one of the best suspense scenes I’ve watched in years. The entire movie isn’t like this, but when the film clicks, it really clicks.
There are aspects to the filmmaking that seemed out of place. For example, the plot has so many characters and names and countries and political twists that it’s hard to keep track of everything. Yet, other scenes are delivered with such a heavy hand that it actually can spoil the plot by giving too much away.
Everything is in place to make this a great thriller. However, there is one thing standing in its way – the United Nations. “The Interpreter” made some history because it was the first film to extensively utilize the actual U.N. as a set. Plus, according to industry scuttlebutt, Kidman signed on this movie without even reading the script. I would assume this was as a political statement.
And then there’s Sean Penn, and we all know what a brilliant political mind this man is.
Of course if the U.N. is going to give such access to a film crew, you’d expect the organization to be shown in a positive light. So be prepared for a film that has the utmost faith and belief in the United Nations and International Law. If you can look past global goofs like the Oil-for-Food scandal, you just might be able to buy this movie’s politics. If not, you’re gonna have to hold your nose in some scenes.
Especially near the end, the film falls into numerous cliches and ends up writing itself into a corner. However, that’s par for the course for political thrillers.